Skipping, beloved of school girls and boxing champions alike, is a great, inexpensive way to stay fit. It’s said to burn twice as many calories as walking, and has far less impact on your joints than running because your weight is evenly distributed.
Remember that running, though a great way to stay fit, isn’t for everyone – some bodies simply aren’t designed for it, while others, quite acceptably, find it a bore. Skipping could be the ideal solution. The problem is that most people won’t just pick up a rope and start jumping if they haven’t tried it since school – if at all.
Enter Skiptrix, the latest trademarked group exercise programme to arrive in Dubai. Established in the US in 2004, it’s taken a tardy eight years to make it over to the UAE, where Urban Energy has just launched classes. Open to both men and women, Skiptrix sessions offer a jump-rope workout that incorporates a few tricks along the way – you’ll usually work through five different tricks in an hour-long class.
Held at a number of locations across the city, I make my way to Star International School in Umm Suqeim to give Skiptrix a shot, under the watchful eye of instructor Chelsee. It’s only a taster session, so slightly shorter than a normal class, but all indications are that I should expect to be thoroughly out of breath before long if I put the work in.
We begin by stretching and getting into a short warm-up that incorporates squats, sidesteps and an upper body rotation that is entirely new to me. Then it’s time for me to pick up my jump rope. Having not skipped properly in many years, I suffer a few inevitable whippings from the plastic rope when it hits my wrists and ankles. Luckily the rope is fairly lightweight and not so painful as to be a deterrent, so there’s no reason to swing timidly.
In fact, your best bet is to swing the rope confidently, getting used to a rhythm and sticking with it, because before long, Chelsee introduces the first trick. After eight normal jumps, we’ll be incorporating a heel tap – far more a feat of coordination than anything else. After several minutes’ practice, I’ve notched up far more slaps to the shins with the rope than successful heel taps. As we head into the first set of eight jumps, I realise my arms already feel a little tired – I’ve been concentrating so hard on my legs that I haven’t had the brain capacity to pay attention to much else. Considering I am no more than ten minutes into the class, it’s probably for the best.
The next trick we learn is crossing and uncrossing our lower legs during a jump. Chelsee notes this might be trickier to master, as the temptation is to cross your arms at the same time. Fortunately, I don’t cross my arms, but nor do I successfully cross my legs, instead opting to repeatedly smash my ankles into one another and land on my own feet. My fellow students are doing markedly better, but most of them have already attended at least one class. With the third trick, called hopscotch (after another playground game), I find myself having slightly more, if limited success. The idea is to land legs apart and to the sides for one jump, and for the next land on one leg in the middle. I just about manage this, before I start over-thinking the process, confusing which leg needs to be at the side and which in the middle, and start hopping around erratically on one leg like an alarmed flamingo.
According to Chelsee, I’m struggling because I’m too impatient – unfortunately, there isn’t time to ask what she means by this before the start of the next set, but I’m certain she doesn’t mean impatient to drop the rope and run, never to return. Despite my shoddy coordination, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the session, and am satisfactorily out of breath, even if my legs feel as though they’re made of lead.
Give it a try: even if you’re just as bad as me, all accounts suggest that within a couple of sessions, you’ll get better – and if you don’t, at least it breaks up the monotony of running. From Dhs60 per session. Classes held at Star International School, Umm Suqeim and DanceFit Studio, Sheikh Zayed Road. Urban Energy Fitness (055 886 9158).
Box-Fit This is a boxing-style exercise class that focuses on cardio rather than technique. From Dhs100 per session. Ignite Fitness & Wellness, various locations (04 448 7142).
Sh’bam This dance class involves learning high-intensity, quick routines to pop and R&B songs that have been sped up to get you thoroughly out of breath. Classes from Dhs50. Ladies only. Dubai Ladies Club, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 9922).